Claudia Myers column: Is it your mom's voice, or your guilty conscience?

The thing is, she's been gone for the last 30 years. No longer with us. "Bought the farm" gone. But her voice still stays with you.

woman holds two pillows against her ears, annoyed look on her face
Maybe it's not our mom at all. Maybe it's just our guilty conscience, mimicking her voice, because we haven't been doing what our guilty conscience tells us to do.
Pheelings Media / Getty Images / iStockphoto

You wake up out of a sound sleep and you hear your mother say loudly, right in your ear: "Claudia Rae! Did you remember to unplug the iron?"

"Did you write a thank-you note to your Aunt Helen for the lovely sweater she gave you for Christmas?"

Claudia Myers.jpg
Claudia Myers

"You mean the pink and brown one with the raccoons all over it?" you mumble. And before you could tell her that yes, you did both of those things, she's gone.

The thing is, she's been gone for the last 30 years. No longer with us. "Bought the farm" gone. But her voice still stays with you.

I have spent most of my time thinking about exercising rather than doing it, and as you may know, I am a great maker-upper of sometimes improbable theories.

You're in the middle of making a very old family recipe and suddenly you hear mom's voice repeating, "butter the size of a walnut" and "a can of crushed pineapple" from the days when there was only one size can of crushed pineapple and people actually knew how big an unshelled walnut was.


Speaking of how big, I have her old recipes that call for a "speck" of nutmeg. How the heck big is a "speck" of nutmeg? Mom?

My mother had a very specific routine, just like on those old-fashioned hand-embroidered dish towels people used to make: "Monday morning we wash our clothes. Tuesday we go to town. Wednesday's the day to iron away and Thursday the mending gets sewn. Friday, Friday, clean the house. Saturday bake the bread. Rest on Sunday; think good thoughts; you might as well stay in bed." Or something like that.

So, if I hear Mom ask on a Wednesday, "Are you getting the ironing done?" I say, "Mom, nobody irons anymore!"

Do you ever hear your mother's voice say, "You should really have your cousin and her husband over for dinner. How many times have they had you over, now?"

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Maybe it's not our mom at all. Maybe it's just our guilty conscience, mimicking her voice, because we haven't been doing what our guilty conscience tells us to do. And you really should have your cousin and her husband over. Even if he has gopher-breath and she talks about nothing but her golf scores.

Jeepers, Mom, since you are out there in the ether somewhere, you probably have a good view of the future, right? Instead of scolding me, couldn't you tell me some good stocks to buy? Or, where to look for my glasses, which have disappeared. Or, tell me, "don't park by that tree. It's going to get struck by lightning and fall on your car."

You know, Mom, important things like that: "Don't forget to take your pills; don't forget to pay the electric bill; don't forget your mother-in-law's birthday."

You know, you could be helpful: "Renew your driver's license tomorrow because there is going to be a young, earnest policeman assigned to traffic duty in your block this week and ..."


We were at a friend's house for dinner long ago and one of our children called from home with a problem of some sort. Our hostess answered the phone and instead of saying that it was my daughter, she misspoke and said, "It's your mother." I remember the first thought through my mind was, "Wow, that must be really long distance!" since my mother was long gone by then. I have to say, it would've been nice to hear her voice, again.

Maybe I could have said to her, "Hi, Mom, as long as I've got you on the phone, can you tell me how to make that pork chop and sauerkraut dish I like so much? I couldn't find a recipe in your box. And, what about windows? You never did show me that vinegar/newsprint thing you used to do. And the apple coffee cake. Boy, would I ever like some of that. How about it? Mom? Mom? You still there?

I wonder, if in years to come, when I have "left the building," so to speak, my kids will hear my voice. Maybe I should start making lists of things to remind them to do. And another list of things to not bug them about.

"Yes, Motherrr." "No, Motherrr."

"Oh, c'mon, Mom, we've heard that story before. Haven't you got any new ones?"

Guess I'd better brush up on my repertoire while I'm at it.

Our oldest son has a different ringtone on his phone for most friends and family. Mine happens to be a very screechy Marge Simpson-type voice announcing, "It's your Motherrrr!"

Several years ago, I was helping to scout out a new house for him and his wife and it was hard-going. Everything was getting snapped up right away. So, when I saw the perfect one come up, I decided to call him right now, at work. He happened to be standing in a hallway having a serious conversation with his boss, when out of his shirt pocket came the Marge Simpson voice. His boss recovered first and with a serious look on his face said,"Uh, I think you'd better take that. Is that really your mother's voice?"


Next time: Summers at the cabin

Claudia Myers is retired from costume design and construction for The Baltimore Opera and the Minnesota Ballet. She is a national award-winning quilter, author and local antique dealer, specializing in Persian rugs. Her book, "The Storyteller," is available at and at Father Time Antiques in Duluth's Canal Park.
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